Coppola-backed FILM cryptocurrency boosts independent cinema

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Patrick Quinn lives with his wife and four-year-old daughter in a yurt in West Cork, Ireland, far from the world’s media centers where an aspiring screenwriter might find community or opportunity.

But almost every night, Quinn logs onto Decentralized Pictures, an unusual new platform where he can earn and spend a proprietary cryptocurrency known as FILM. Quinn uses the system to gather feedback on her budding film project – a dark comedy set during the Irish Potato Famine – to provide ratings for other writers and even to win grants run by the founders of the site.

“I’m sitting here pretty far from everything,” Quinn, 36, said via Zoom from her writer’s cabin one recent evening. “So being able to find a place where people are encouraged to give their opinion on my project really means a lot.”

Quinn is proof of a case fervently made by decentralized executives and other advocates that, contrary to growing skepticism, crypto is more than a poorly regulated asset class where people can lose their life savings or a chance for celebrities to brag about their NFTs. It may have beneficial uses.

They say crypto can be a way to forge a global community that isn’t focused on restrictive old Hollywood clubs — and, perhaps, even help the industry find the next “Godfather” or “Pulp Fiction.” “. Decentralized, a nonprofit with participation from the Coppola family of filmmakers, aims to use its unofficial currency to nurture and nurture a new generation of filmmakers they believe might otherwise never be found.

“The decision on what gets done in Hollywood comes from small groups of people,” said Michael Musante, co-founder of Decentralized, or DCP. “We want to open this up so that the process is democratized, so that all of these ideas can be tested and developed by new people who will now have the chance to break through.”

DCP was founded by several executives from American Zoetrope — the company long overseen by “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola — including Coppola’s producer-director son Roman Coppola and Musante, vice president of production and acquisitions. of Zoetrope. Launched in May, DCP has attracted around 2,000 users, according to executives, with the aim of eventually reaching 2,000,000 and catching the attention of culture gatekeepers.

“I know there’s some cynicism when people hear the word ‘crypto’ – how does that have value and isn’t it just a hype thing?” says Roman Coppola. “But we value smart engagement from our participants. And we think that engagement should pay them back, which will bring in smarter participants and build community.

At the heart of DCP is a sort of barter-based public square that proponents say could never happen on an unencrypted website, though some critics ask why today’s social web can’t reach many of the same goals.

Most art industry communities on the web today – for example, the agglomeration of writers known as Book Twitter – operate solely for the benefit of their participants, who post thoughts and receive ratings if the urge arises. A screenwriter who wants to ensure a more regular return of their ideas can apply for a so-called lab – a postgraduate fellowship run by a high-end institution like Sundance. But labs are so intensely competitive that they are inaccessible to most.

Web3 holds out a different promise – that by gamifying and even financializing the notion of feedback, it can lubricate a robust community accessible to all.

The decentralized system works like this. The site solicits projects – short films, scripts, pitches – for a nominal fee. Users can earn crypto by reviewing these projects and engaging with the site in other ways (lending their computing power to validate transactions, for example). They can then use the crypto they earned to pay to enter their own projects ― on which others can, in turn, earn crypto with their own reviews.

It is a self-sustaining ecosystem – a constant recirculation of labor and currency that, if all goes according to plan, will leave creators with feedback and agents and producers with market information.

“Think of the depth of process of a filmmaker or studio having a sense of what the audience is thinking – it’s basically during a test screening [after a movie is completed]said Leo Matchett, general manager of Decentralized. “And now we’re saying you can find out how your horror movie idea will be played by women 18-35 before you spend a dime on the production.”

Not insignificantly, the system also gives Zoetrope insight into a whole bunch of new scripts and projects – with the blockchain doing some of the sorting for them.

For users, feedback is not the only reward. DCP also runs a series of grant competitions that pay out tens of thousands of (real-world) dollars to fund projects that have been voted on by other decentralized members. Projects are reviewed by users under a complex system that weighs not only the total number of upvotes, but also factors such as voter reputation and frequency of use. (Voters can even spend crypto to push a script to a more prominent place on the site, though executives point out that this just guarantees more overall reviews, not more good reviews.)

Projects will then fluctuate up and down in the public rankings. The best qualify for a final round. There, a small group of professionals makes the final decision on who should receive the prize money.

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh sponsored such a competition which will award $100,000 each to three different projects; writer-director Kevin Smith backed one for $40,000. DCP also says it will help direct these blockchain-blessed projects to production companies and talent agencies.

“We think it’s a much better way to run a competition,” Matchett said. “And it’s all on-chain, so no one can claim someone manipulated it.” The blockchain, a digital ledger, makes every action on a platform public, making tampering with a result difficult to hide.

Young filmmakers say a Web3 approach — or film3, as some in the entertainment world call it — can also help overcome the unknowns of a legacy industry.

“With a lot of other contests and scholarships, you just throw your stuff out there and hope something happens,” said Tiffany Lin, writer-director whose narrative short “Poachers,” about the illegal trade of succulents in California, won a grant thanks to the decentralized voting system. “With DCP, you have more control over what you post, and you can also follow progress live so you really know what people are thinking.” The site offers a high level of analysis, she noted, breaking down votes by age and other demographic information.

Some who submit to the site also say it can reduce Hollywood’s structural bias. Producer DC Cassidy, who founded production company Diamond Entertainment and produces a story about black athletes in extreme sports titled “Black People Do,” says a platform like Decentralized pursues that goal.

“The power of web3 is that you don’t have to attend Chapman, USC, NYU, UCLA or AFI to have a chance to meet the right people in the industry,” Cassidy said in an email. “Twitter and Reddit cracked the foundations, web3 tore down the walls.”

DCP executives say talent discovery isn’t the only use case. Although the FILM cryptocurrency cannot currently be used outside of the site, Musante said the company is in talks with film production suppliers to allow it to purchase various production items – allowing users to finance their film, at least in part, with the crypto earned on the site.

Coppola has an even bigger idea. He asks if the whole system can be deployed to locate talent in new ways. Currently, a producer who wishes to find, for example, a specific location or a highly specialized performer must go through a network of expensive and not always precise agencies.

“But what if you could use Web3 for that? ” he said. “Whether it’s casting, development, localizations, or anything else in our industry, crypto and blockchain are going to allow us to find more of what we need and function better as company than ever before.”

Crypto-skeptics, however, say it offers a solution to a problem no one has posed.

“With almost every community, the question is what could be done with crypto and Web 3 that you couldn’t do with regular money and the web we have,” commenter David Gerard said. and author of the crypto-skeptical book “Attack of the Blockchain from 50 Feet.

A talent representative contacted by The Post who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press added that he was concerned that these changes would favor not the best storytellers, but those who understood how working and even manipulating a cryptography-based system.

But Smith, the pioneering independent filmmaker behind hits like “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” who is releasing his new film as NFT, says he sees these tools as necessary now in the same way that movie theaters or the home video were to a previous generation.

He said: “If you’re an established independent filmmaker, you can go to streamers like Netflix or HBO Max. But where is the emerging filmmaker going? Where is the microbudget filmmaker going? With crypto and NFT, there is a hungry community that is already here. He said he views the crypto speculative bubble now as similar to the dotcom bubble of two decades ago: a bubble that ultimately wouldn’t stifle underlying innovation.

As he waited to see if he would land a DCP grant, Quinn said that no matter which direction it took, he already felt like he was winning.

“I come from a working-class family with no connection to business,” said Quinn, who studied screenwriting but spent years in her twenties working at a local creamery. “Just having a platform to put my work on feels like a real turning point.”

About Wanda Reilly

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